eSchool News featured a long piece on the AEI debrief on the rocky start of Philly School of the Future

Long story short: some good ideas, sloppy execution.  Microsoft provided useful assistance but ran into the disastrous revolving-door leadership common in urban districts.  

Lesson: running a good school is at least 70% execution.  What you do (i.e., what curriculum you use, etc) is less important that how you deliver.  Good schools have a coherent design and, even more importantly, relentlessly focus on results.  This obviously requires stable and effective leadership.  

Leadership challenge: the need to execute today and innovate for tomorrow.  Finding the right blend is tricky.  The constraints that superintendents and principals face make both difficult.  

Contrast: Larry Rosenstock has been leading High Tech High in San Diego for 10 years.  They’re constantly tinkering with the model but focused on results–a good blend of innovation and execution.  

Rick Hess and the AEI team continue to hold interesting sessions that help us all reflect on how to make the sector a bit more entrepreneurial.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


    • By coherent design I mean a school where everything works together for teachers & kids–curriculum, instruction, structure, schedule, and set of relationships that support a common intellectual mission. Most US schools are places where local, state and federal programs take place; it’s hard to stitch together a set of disparate programs into a good school.


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